Story of Things

Words: Manuela Millan

Creatives and friends Petrina Turner, Jess Reftel Evans and Martin Reftel came together a little over a year ago to build a platform for sharing Australian designers and make their works available to purchase directly, and The Story of Things was born.

After busy year getting everything ready they officially launched in September of this year. We caught up with them for a Q&A to learn more about how they came together and what The Story of Things is all about.

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MM: How did you end up working together?

MR: Jess and I photographed a couple of Petrina’s interior design projects in 2015. Petrina had asked Megan Morton to style them and Megan brought us in for the shoot. We carried on working together ever since then. Sometimes you just find the right people who you work well with. We really complement each other regarding skill sets and have a similar work ethic.  

JR: Sometimes when you meet people, you just get on. This is what it was like with Petrina. We’ve worked on various projects together ever since. 

PT: When you find your tribe, you stick with them!

MM: Did you grow up in a creative household?

PT: Yes I did! My mum was an amazing tailoress when I was very young and used to give me fabric scraps, buttons and needle & Thread to play with while she worked. My sister and I were always sewing, cooking, making and encouraged to give anything a go.

MR: Not really. My father worked for the university in Gothenburg (Sweden) and my mother at a library. Intellectual curiosity was very much encouraged, especially reading. But not a creative household per se.  

JR: It depends what you define as creative. My parents are a science academic and a public health specialist. Not strictly creative in the visual sense but my childhood was full of interesting conversation and discussion about all sorts of challenging topics. There was always a strong emphasis on asking questions, ethics and thinking outside the standard box. So very creative from an intellectual perspective.

MM: What are you reading/listening right now?

MR: I’ve normally have a few books and podcasts on the go but “Byzantium” by Judith Herrin I’m just about to finish.   

JR: When you combine our new creative baby Story of Things, the normal photography work and a 2 year old. There has been way too little reading for me recently. I love a good novel but podcasts and Radio National is as much as I can manage at the moment. My fave podcasts currently are Chat 10 looks 3, BBC Friday Night Comedy and always This American Life. Just perfect when I’m retouching images!!

PT: I’m currently loving “Design for Life: Grant & Mary Featherston” because I’m a self-confessed chairs addict, particularly Australian design. I’m also just about to start on my recently delivered copy of “Georges & Mirka, A culinary Affair”. It’s a biography, cookbook, art study and love story all rolled into one. I spend a lot of time in my car for work, and listen to anything I can sing along to. I must look really crazy to anyone who pulls up beside me at the traffic lights.

We believe that beauty is not only in the things we have, but most importantly in the Story of Things.
— The story of Things
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MM: Who can be featured on Story of Things?

PT: On Story of Things we focus on featuring local creators and sharing their stories, and their work. It’s not enough for it to just be beautiful, we curate the site because we think it’s really important that all of the objects talk to each other and resonate with our customers. It’s why we have created the visual collections or chapters, to help people see objects is context, but also buy a story of unexpected goodness if they choose. Life is about diversity and celebrating our differences in a shared conversation right?! Story of Things is no different, we select objects that are Australian designed and ethically made, and believe if you know a little about who designed and made it for you, you’ll appreciate and value it that much more.

MR: Story of Things feature a range of what we call “creators” who make everything from jewellery to furniture. What they have in common is that what they produce is designed in Australia and ethically made. We also want the Story of Things to be a story in itself so we curate what goes on the site so that it all works together. 


MM: What’s the most enjoyable part of doing what you do?

MR: Meeting and photographing the creators. I love people and visual storytelling. There’s nothing better than to spend time with clever people who are passionate about what they do and photographing them, their environment and their process.

JR: I think intrinsically photographers are super nosy and I’m no exception. I just feel so blessed to get to go in to creators’ spaces and tell their stories through images. As someone who has worked most of my career as a commercial/editorial photographer, shooting to other people’s briefs. As much as I love doing that it’s been so refreshing and liberating to shoot to our own brief for Story of Things. I just love it!

PT: It really is a joy every day. I get to explore and share my love of extraordinary Australia design, meet my design crushes and visit their studios, style my little heart out with so much beauty some days it’s hard to breathe, and enjoy the ride with the best darn business partners and friends I could ask for in Jessica and Martin. 


MM: How do you like to spend your time when you aren’t creating content?

MR: Often, nowadays, any spare time is spent with Kasper our little 2 year old. I also really enjoy exploring everything that Melbourne has to offer, be that visiting a gallery, a favourite coffee shop or getting out and about for a day-trip in the country

JR: It’s all a bit homey at the mo. Lots of good cooking, gardening, seeing friends, our local market or Abbotsford Convent for brunch and walks. If we are feeling adventurous then trips out to see friends and family in the country. Gone are the days of overseas holidays and long dinners in yummy restaurants ;) but I’m thinking those days will return at another stage in life. 

 PT: I like to spend my time with family and friends, visiting galleries, road tripping, walking at my local beach any chance I get. The light, textures and colours change every day and I love exploring rain or shine. You’ll also find me trying to tackle to weeds in my garden on a sunny weekend, or making, sketching, painting, experimenting in design from all of that amazing inspiration that surrounds me. Oh and tap dancing. Shuffle hop step!!!

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MM: Best advice given or received?

JR: I used to work in costume for TV and film in my early twenties and an amazing female director once said to me “Don’t compromise with life or business partners. Too many strong minded women do and they regret it”. I’ve been so lucky to have those words in my head and maybe as a result or by luck I haven’t had to compromise on either count. 

PT: As a Capricorn perfectionist the best advice I received a few years ago was from the fabulous Kylie Lewis of Ofkin. It’s threefold, and I now share it with anyone who will listen: “Done is better than perfect!” – it’s a great procrastination killer, especially if you’re like me can fall into worrying that your work is not perfect enough (what does that even mean?)
“You can’t be comfortable and courageous at the same time” – so go on, jump!

MR: Done is better than perfect. This a new slogan to me that I’m trying to live by as I have a tendency of getting bogged down in refining detail. 


MM: What are your hopes for the next few years?  

MR: That Story of Things grows and becomes what we hope and work for, which is a place that is of benefit to everyone involved. For the creators to have their products shown and find new customers; for the people who visit the site who can find new and exciting designers and products at the one place and for ourselves that are trying to bring them all together. 

JR: I just want this to grow and flourish. To get their stories out and sell their product, so they can carry on creating new and wonderful things and to fill people’s homes with beautiful things that give them joy! On a personal front I’m pretty content. I’m happy for things to roll on as they are.  

PR: Keep doing more of what I’m doing! Enjoy life with family and friends. More designing and styling. And working with Jess & Martin to build Story of Things into the most beautiful online marketplace to support, nurture and sell amazing Australian design. And sharing the stories of our amazing community of creators. We believe we’ve already made a pretty great start.


MM: Can you recommend a coffee place and a restaurant in Melbourne?

MR: Hard to just name a single coffee place! But Humble Rays on Bouverie St is definitely one of them. When it comes to restaurants, I do love Marion on Gertrude St. Good wine, good food and the interior is just how I like it. 

JR: Oh but there are so many to choose from! I think my favourite coffee place at the moment is Wild Life Bakery just around the corner from our studio and does sensational fruit bread! For restaurants, I’m a bit out of touch, as we have a 2 year old but Lazerpig is always an easy Sunday afternoon favourite!

PT: Well I’m not a coffee drinker (I know shocking right?!... That’s about the only “tell” that I’m not a native Melbournian) but I have to say there is something amazing about the chai at Hannah Cafe in St Kilda. Jason and his team are super friendly, and it’s a great spot work away on my laptop, have a bite to eat, and listen to their great selection of vinyl records when I’m not in the office. A favourite restaurant has got to be Supernormal Canteen in St Kilda. The interior is warm and relaxed, the food is amazing (I suggest going with the banquet as you get the best of everything, including the peanut butter gelato) washed down with an Umeshu Spritz. It’s also extra special now because it’s where Jess, Martin and I celebrated the night we launched Story of Things.